Creating a small themed exhibition is a great
way to showcase a particular story from your collection without having to rethink your
permanent exhibition space. A small exhibition could be relating to an event or anniversary
in your region, and could be changed over a few times a year.
This video will illustrate how you can create a small one cabinet themed exhibit, or a series
of cabinets to create an exhibition. We will be using examples from the Strong Roots – Resilient
Communities exhibition, which brought together ten communities and over 100 volunteers in
the Buloke Shire to develop a travelling historical exhibition, following the 2011 floods.
Members of historical societies across ten communities in the Buloke Shire gathered together
to discuss ideas. The group then narrowed down ideas from the
initial brainstorming session, to come up with a series of themes that could be covered
in the exhibition. Once you have your exhibition theme and preliminary objects, you can decide
how to organise the content of your exhibition. It could be chronological, taxonomic, or thematic.
In this example, the group decided to use the thematic approach, and have grouped objects
together across themes. It is a good idea to also think about who you want to attract
to your exhibition. Considering the collection items chosen for
the exhibition, the group decided on themes including Sport, Communications, Education,
War, Local business, and Aboriginal history and it was decided to dedicate a display case
to each. The general themes decided at the beginning
of the process were examined, and the group considered what stories they might tell about
these themes. Rather than just presenting facts, it can
be helpful to tell a story about the object, or a group of objects.
Once you have narrowed down what objects you will include in your display. Experiment with
a few different options before you decide how the display cabinets should be setup.
This helps you decide if you are overcrowding the case and also gives you a sense of how
much space you have for labels. It is useful to photograph these mockups of
your display, for your records and to help you decide which is the best option and what
exhibition furniture you might require. Many small museums and historical societies
may have members who have carpentry skills who could build exhibition furniture such
as plinths, object rests or stands from wood or even foam core. Alternatively, inexpensive
and reusable display supports can be found at shop fitting suppliers.
Consider each of your objects and the best way to display them as a group. An object
such as this telephone headset benefit from being displayed upright using small hooks.
To keep your display looking professional, it is important to make sure your labels and
mounted objects are displayed straight. A spirit level makes this task easy.
Labels can be more easily read if they are mounted on an angle. Label rests like this
can also be made from strong cardboard or foam core.
A more interesting display can be achieved by displaying objects at different levels.
You can combine historical photographs with your label text to create an informative label.
You can use basic word processing software to create labels like this, or design software
if you have it available. You could use quotes from diaries, journals
or newspaper articles to help tell the story. When creating your object labels, use one
clear font, with the object name or title in bold. It is common practice to use a sans
serif font such as Helvetica or Arial, with a minimum point size of 12.
Labels can be printed on plain white paper and mounted on foam core or forex. Trim the
labels with a sharp stanley knife to ensure you have a nice straight edge.
Sometimes you may be putting together an exhibition on your own, or within a very small team.
It is important to always have someone to run your ideas past, to proofread your labels
and to give feedback on display ideas. Since this exhibition was touring, it used
a combination of pull up banners with interpretation text and photographs, combined with small
labels within the cabinets. You could so something similar with a larger overall interpretation
panel attached to strong card, along with smaller labels within the display cabinet.
We hope that you can use some of these practical ideas to assist with your small exhibitions.
If you are creating a one cabinet display, it may not be necessary to develop a full
blown exhibition proposal, but thinking about your exhibition under these terms can assist
you to focus your ideas and consider all aspects of the exhibition development.
See our website for an exhibition proposal template and more resources and templates
to assist you with your exhibitions and collection management.